“Invisible Republic” kicks off a political sci-fi thriller in the far future set on a dystopian planet where the Mallory regime, an alluded-to dictatorship, has recently been overthrown. It’s a slow burn, taking place mostly in flashback as reporter Croger Babb accidentally stumbles across evidence about the early days of Arthur McBride, former head of the Mallory regime, and Maia Reveron, the cousin no one knew he had. The comic book is dark in both tone and look as Gabriel Hardman, Corinna Bechko and Jordan Boyd work in tandem to create a bleak mood on Avalon, a hard-worn planet full of depressed poverty.
Crumbled buildings and streets litter the landscape, a symbol of days of prosperity and citizens would rather tell Babb off than speak to him about the terror that has just been taken out of power. This is an environment of narrow focus, people who can’t see a big picture because the immediate future is too overwhelming. In all of this, Babb discovers handwritten letters from Reveron, which may give him the next big story of his career. Hardman illustrates the scene with well-considered angles. Babb sits with his bounty, papers in the foreground stacked as tall as he, a mountain to climb in order to reach a pinnacle no one knows about, where he uncovers a secret past erased by history’s winners and the prize is worth the trek.
Most of the issue takes place in flashback as Reveron recounts a pivotal moment in both her and McBride’s lives, a day when they stood up to the overbearing police state in which they lived. Boyd gives the past a utopic bright palette, a symbol of a far different time for the planet. Hardman and Bechko turn the tension between the two parties slowly, the dialogue full of unstated intent played out through the visible emotions of all involved. When McBride unleashes his fury, Hardman provides a low angle splash of the event with McBride himself like a viper uncoiling on his prey. The writing team provides a dynamic between the cousins of peace and anger though McBride is clearly in charge. By the end of the episode, Reveron’s fear looms large in the letters.
The final page is a statement piece for the story as a whole, a torn propaganda poster of McBride looming large over Babb as he delivers the pitch to his unseen editor over the phone. It’s full of writing that compliments the art and vice versa. Boyd helps Hardman make Babb’s surroundings feel gritty and tough and the lettering adds a visual order to the mystery of the tale with clean, well-placed bubbles full of neat, ordered letters, symbolic of the type of control a man like McBride would want to enforce on society.
If the creative team’s previous collaborations are any indication, then readers are in store for a smart thriller full of danger and mystery, a noir piece set in the far reaches of space. Readers looking for something with the feel of classic films like “The Insider” or “All the President’s Men” with the look of Ronald D. Moore’s “Battlestar Galactica” should check out “Invisible Republic” #1.